Being a bad blogger isn’t the worst thing you could be. But today, I stand before you and tell you that’s exactly what I am: A bad blogger.
I wrote multiple posts a day for years. I write at least that much most days for clients. Putting my own words to my name is a lot tougher these days. It felt like I’ve run out of new ideas. Which is ridiculous, since I never had any new ideas in the first place.
I could roll out the excuses for you and tell you that I was busy. I was. Or that spending time with my daughter was more important than telling you why employee engagement should still matter. Both of those are true.
We make time for things we love and I’ll be honest with you: I fell out of love with blogging. I wanted to convert this into a podcast but I know from my own research that podcasts unsupported by blog content rarely gain traction. So it’s time to fall back in love with it.
I also realized I had to drop things in my life that got in the way of writing things. I’ve hosted a few websites that you may have heard of over the last five years that were all much bigger than my own. Their success outgrew my capabilities and thanks to their patience, they are slowly moving their way to hopefully more secure and responsive support.
I dropped my Tumblr, which I was using for a news aggregator/baby picture distribution service. I stopped publicly posting a lot of pictures of my daughter and aggregating news is a pretty nonsensical job unless you are doing it with some cohesive purpose, like in a newsletter.
While I wanted to write guest posts for a few places, it made no sense to clear my schedule to do that when I didn’t even have a blog to point anyone to. I don’t want to be active on LinkedIn because that’s not my approach and Medium seems to be good for open letters and little else.
So. I’m backish. With no word count minimum and hopefully less over editing that have prevented a lot of good, timely posts from being published.
And maybe later? Podcasts. Guest posts. But I have to write something, and it has to be something other than white papers and PowerPoint presentations.
I gotta admit, I was a little spellbound when I first read Talia Jane’s open letter to the CEO of Yelp, the company she worked for then (she was fired shortly after posting her story). I felt some cringe on her behalf as I made my way through the piece. Just looking back at the things I wrote when I was 25, I’m guessing I’m not alone in it feeling a little too familiar.
But this isn’t about bashing Jane’s post. Plenty have already done so, including one on Business Insider I’ve seen repeatedly.
Instead, I’ll try to not be the guy that yells about kids on his lawn for a few minutes.
Playing the Generational Card
I hate generational stereotypes and the biggest problem with Jane’s diatribe is that it plays right into the hands of people who love to hate on millennials as a whole. Entitlement is a tricky word but that’s exactly what this smells like. Moving to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. for a job that doesn’t pay much is a recipe for disaster. Paying 80 percent of your income towards housing is not sustainable and should’ve been a red flag to any of the friends or family members in Jane’s life. A $20 co-pay is a luxury plenty of people don’t have, either.
A series of bad choices, published for all to see online, goes viral and like magic, old and young people alike start rattling off all that’s wrong about kids these days.
Listen, assholes: You made mistakes when you were young. So did I. We still make mistakes. And while this series of mistakes had a train wreck appeal and a predictable ending, let’s not pretend your generation of dead-end jobs and multiple divorces saw everything coming, either.
You didn’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps
That widely shared post I mentioned responding to Jane? Written by nearly 30-year-old Stefanie Williams, it shares a viewpoint that isn’t uncommon: Work harder, complain less.
Shit, I get it. That’s how I was raised, too. But it’s such a belittling piece, it’ll fall on deaf ears to those who could probably use an extra dose of suck it up.
First of all, many people don’t have the opportunity to live with parents while working low wage jobs like Williams did. Many of us don’t have family friends who will take pity on us and give us a job when we’re down on our luck. I guess if you don’t have that, you can always make your own luck, which is its own brand of bullshit made by people with money, power and opportunity already.
Williams’ tale of putting pride aside and working a job she initially didn’t want was less a lesson in work ethic and more a demonstration of the power of privilege. I worked shitty jobs over holidays and weekends, but let’s pretend that finding even a job you hate that’s in the right location that pays the bills isn’t an entitlement on its own.
Her condescending diss piece, made for an internet audience that gobbles this shit up like the lamest east coast/west coast rap war ever, was at least as offensive as the original.
Unfortunately, the whole thing plays out more like two poorly written fictional personas: the entitled princess who can’t understand why her bad career choices aren’t working for her and the wise-beyond-her-years character who simply parrots the same things her grandparents say about success but in a much more condescending, grating way.
Congrats for making me hate both sides of this argument.
I learned it from you
Of course, while many baby boomers cheer Jane’s professional demise from the sideline as a hard lesson they hope others will learn from, they can ignore the issues that have caused situations like Jane’s to be more common than just slacker, entitled kids getting their comeuppance. In fact, it’s snarled a lot of good kids who do work hard and find it difficult to move up without lucky breaks or knowing someone in high places. Specifically, these long-term issues have hurt young people’s ability to move up in the world:
A college degree is no longer a ticket to success: I’ve worked with a lot of older people with liberal arts degrees who are doing work significantly outside of the scope of their degree. Millennials were sold a bill of goods about college education that is a lot less certain today. There was a time when any degree was better than none and many parents and advisors assumed that would continue to be the case. Now, a horde of English and History graduates that used to get jobs in the 70s and 80s simply languish in today’s job market. When college was a few thousand dollars, that’s less of an issue but now, it’s much different.
Unaffordable education: When I started repaying my student loans in 2004, I had $12,000 in debt thanks mainly to the generosity of parents who floated me money for when finances got tight and my ability to work close to full-time at a place where I nearly set my own schedule. A student starting today at the same state university I attended, a little more than a decade later, will be that much in debt after their first year if they only financed tuition. Unless something major happens, I don’t think college tuition is going to decrease. Something will have to give. We can’t keep encouraging 18-year-olds to make house-sized debt gambles on careers.
Affordable housing: In many coastal U.S. cities, housing is insane. In my hometown, a bedroom community for Portland, rents rose the fastest in the nation last summer. White collar workers making six figures want baristas, servers, and retail workers next to their workplaces in high-rent high rises but they don’t seem to want to pay to either subsidize housing for them or pay the prices necessary to offer a livable wage for the area. Many younger workers and college grads are abandoning cities to find work away from the coast, if they can afford the move in the first place.
Lack of truly entry-level career opportunities: During every recession, training is one of the first departments to get cut to the bone and the last to get an increase in funding. While companies complain about the lack of talent, they are unwilling to put skin in the game to get those who are willing but may be lacking in certain skills up to speed. Going from the mailroom to the CEO requires not just hard work from the employee but also investment and risk from the company.
Of course, all of these hit minorities and women harder than people like me. It’s not a good situation but it’s one that was created by all of us.
It’s not about the trophy anymore
When you look at the odds young people face, you can see why they support someone like Bernie Sanders. And look, he’s not my cup of tea but it seems like young people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think it’s fair to look for relief, especially if it feels like you got a significantly worse deal than your parents did — which you did, because you could get a better job with a free high school diploma then than you can with many college degrees now by nearly every measure.
This whole idea of a “trophy for every kid” is what doomed an entire generation is just a load of hot garbage and every person with an ounce of honesty has to admit that argument has played itself out.
Entitlement is ripe in America. It has no age. When I see people complaining that taxes are still too high, I see entitlement. I beg these people to go back to the tax rates their parents paid. You didn’t walk uphill to school in the snow. You weren’t better off because you didn’t wear seat belts or helmets — you were lucky you didn’t die, dumbass.
If we’re honest, nothing has truly doomed millennials. There are many successful people under 35 years old. They have good jobs and kids. I’m one of them. I’ve worked with a lot of them. Many are my friends who are forging ahead with incredible success.
But I think we underestimate how much the deck is stacked against them compared to previous generations, even compared to what older millennials like myself faced.
Talia Jane’s situation is a unique one born of a tough situation for anyone her age, ignorance, and yes, we can all acknowledge, incredibly poor decision-making. Hardships and lessons like this are part of growing up. Did she handle it great? No, but I have an entire journal of shit I wrote when I thought I was super brilliant and had it all figured out at 23 (I didn’t). The only decision I made differently was to keep it all private.
But her situation is also becoming less unique. Not because millennials always make bad career choices but because even the best, most assured and smart career strategy today carries with it a much more significant risk of failure.
I want my kid to be successful and I think most people want millennials, including Jane, to find success. But the path forward for them is going to be different from yours and even mine. Calling her to the carpet for the predictable failings that a lot of 25-year-olds face (but don’t necessarily publicize) is your right.
For a lot of people who have taken on second jobs, moved in with roommates, sold every last thing they could, deferred massive student loan debt and still not squeeze by without the help of friends, family, and even kind strangers — don’t be surprised if they find something in Jane’s story that resonates more with their personal struggles than some tired appeal to just suck it up and work harder.
Sometimes, it’s not just the kids’ fault. We don’t have to coddle her mistakes while still admitting that it’s kind of a screwed up world out there for anyone looking to forge a living as a young adult.
Margaret Haun was my great-grandmother. Born in 1909, she died in 2000 and she was a fairly prolific writer, especially in the latter part of her life. I’ve been trying to collect some of her works but they are scattered across many different publications. She submitted to magazines and journals and from what I can find, wrote mainly in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s lovely storytelling that conjures sweet memories of our visits.
She did most of her writing for publication from her place in Santa Cruz, California so I’ve been able to find a few references to pieces from the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
I’m putting this out there in hopes that someone else researching her writings can help fill in some missing pieces.If you have any other works I missed, please email me at email@example.com.
Luckily, some of her writings have been digitized. The Christian Science Monitor and LDS.org have been extremely helpful. I am including some excerpts and links below.
Flower for My Mother
by Margaret Walden Haun May 1988A flower for my mother Is the nicest kind of thing That I can ever think of, That I can ever bring. My mother says she loves it. I knew it all the while … From the way it makes her hug me, The way it makes her smile.
By Margaret Walden Haun May 12, 1982A trip to town when I was a child on a Western wheat ranch offered more than the excitement of venturing from country quiet to sidewalk bustle or exchanging, however briefly, the atmosphere of farmyard, barn and outbuildings for general store, hardware, millinery shop. There was the sensation of being not surrounded for a few hours by swooping, dipping, sky-carving hills that folded one into another to the distant horizons on all sides.
The front porch of our square brown farmhouse faced, across the big dry yard, beyond the county dirt road, a hill that tilted the head if one wanted to see where it touched the sky. Too steep for farming, that hillside was given over to native bunch grass. (Mama said the butter tasted best in spring when the cows ate the green bunch grass. Hot weather later rendered it dry and useless.) After the snow was gone, we children picked bluebells and birdie bills there, walking great scallops over the shank of the hill on our two-mile trek to school.
By Margaret Walden Haun October 24, 1986Our little neighborhood grocery store’s pale new hardwood floor pleases me immensely. Surely, I tell myself, this third such floor in as many decades is almost a pledge that we devotees of the ambience found here can expect our love affair with the place to continue for years to come, despite the mushrooming of sleek supermarkets all over town. My fondness for the place probably stems from my memory of the country store I knew as a child, where farm wives met on Saturday afternoons to barter eggs for calico and catch up on their visiting. For months here, I may not see an acquaintance except for chats in our store while selecting bananas or artichokes.
You might almost call us another California cult, we shoppers who feel that bigger is not necessarily better. This is not to say our gem of a store is a hole-in-the-wall operation. It has five aisles, albeit they are short. Today lettuce is cheaper up the street. But broccoli is holding its own here. We faithful have found that prices even out, and many of us no longer bother to read the ads.
by Margaret Haun November 1972″Have you ever had a moment when you felt the actual presence of God?” the television talk-show host asked his guest with a seeming wistfulness. It was a question he often asks, and I always wait with eager anticipation for the answer. Never yet, not even when the guest was a famous minister, has it been more than a vague generality, something about a “nice feeling. “
Once I would have been forced to make the same reply. But one morning changed all that. That day I got up, put on a robe, went into the living room of the small house where I live alone, and sat down in a chair. What I did next no one a few years previously could have convinced me I would ever want to do, let alone have the audacity to attempt. For I was about to declare an ultimatum to God that I would sit there until I had personal proof of his existence.
Strange as it may seem, my challenge did not seem unreasonable to me. I had recently been with others who had been touched by God’s presence, and they were neither saints nor mystics but ordinary persons like myself.
My early experience with what is often referred to as “kooky fanaticism” had been limited to roaring with laughter outside what we called a “Holy Roller” church and that was long ago. Never in a million years would their excessive emotionalism have led me to my determination that morning. It took two gentle matrons, living in my former home town, to lead the way.
Several years earlier, Barbara. Emily, and I, deploring the lack of vitality in our churches had come together to seek a deeper meaning to life. Some of our prayers were answered. A man to whom we prayed was told by his doctor that his recovery was a miracle. Things that might not have happened seemed to come about because we held them up in prayer. But with it all, for me at there was a persistent dissatisfaction. Did anyone actually listen when we poured out our heart longings? Or was God, as a friend insisted, only alive in our imaginations?
I remembered my high-school-class church-school teacher. A middle-aged, sincere woman, she confessed to us once, “I have been a Christian all my life, but I have never had a single proof of God’s existence.”
On Easter morning, when the congregation chorused loudly, “He lives! … He lives within my heart!” I sincerely hoped he lived in mine. But I never felt sure he did.
After Barbara, Emily, and I started our prayer group, I began a disciplined morning reading, meditation, and prayer period. Once in a while I seemed very near another dimension of awareness, but I could never overcome the feeling that it might be self-induced.
Eventually I moved to another state. I missed the prayer group more than my family and other friends. I had not realized how much it had helped sustain me.
On my first visit back, the next year, I noticed a change in Barbara and Emily. I detected an added enthusiasm, a barely suppressed excitement, the cause of which came out in the strangest tale I ever had heard.
With Emily’s husband and three other persons, they had driven half a state away for what they called “the laying on of hands” by a young minister, and they all had received “the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.”
I was appalled. We had experimented with many forms of prayer in the past — but this was going too far. Shades of the old Holy Rollers. The girls had gone off the deep end! The following year I wondered idly, when I thought about it at all, what had possessed my friends.
THIS ALL happened before the spread of the charismatic movement to college campuses had made headlines. The charismatic movement, it might be explained, is one of those periodic outbursts in the centuries since the beginning of Christianity when the scenes enacted at Pentecost and during the next 300 years are reenacted. People for some reason become discontented with both personal and universal states of affairs and this unrest seems to create a vortex into which a new infusion of spiritual life with its amazing gifts can be sent. The so-called Jesus People and Christian communes are part of the latest evidence of it.
When I returned to my old hometown the second summer, Barbara and Emily were ready for me with a tape recording. “Ignore the background,” admonished Emily. “This is an Episcopalian rector speaking to a group of Pentecostals.”
Dutifully I listened as the speaker explained how the experience that had given life and vitality to the early Christian church is still available and can be claimed by anyone today. He said people of all denominations were receiving it and bringing the real meaning back to Christianity. It was unlike any message I had ever heard.
To this day I do not know whether Barbara and Emily know that something happened to me while I was listening to this tape. Even more peculiar, I did not realize it then myself. It never remotely occurred to me to ask the girls how one came to this experience. I had a vague feeling one might be expected to work up to some frenzy of which I was not capable. So I returned home with a yearning but dimly discerned for something about which I knew almost nothing.
Glowing letters from Emily and Barbara did nothing to dispel my unrest. Members of their families were receiving the Baptism. A bishop in their church and many clergy had heartily endorsed the experience. Amazing stories of healing and guidance were being told.
“I was called to the hospital late one night,” Emily wrote. “My mother had been taken seriously ill from some unknown cause. I hurriedly dressed and as I drove across town, too frightened to think clearly, I began to pray in the Spirit. When I got to the hospital, Mother had recovered. The doctor could not understand it.”
This and similar stories sent me at last to a local minister. “Do you have anyone in your congregation interested in the new charismatic movement?” I plunged in. He hesitated so long I asked if he knew what I was talking about.
“We have no one here,” he finally said. At my obvious disappointment he added halfheartedly, “I believe there is a group at Father Paulson’s church in Redville.”
Thus I came among those who are, I often think, much like the first-century Christians must have been. Here were people praying for one another, finding release and joy and inspiration in song and prayer. How I wanted what these people possessed! But I was still too timid and too unaware of the universal availability of this baptism to make my wish known. Frankly, I could not conceive of a Supreme Being stooping to bestow such a treasure on me — maybe on others, but not on me.
By now Emily and Barbara were aware of my longing. One of them suggested that, if I needed help, a Father Irving some hundred miles from my home was having phenomenal success. So one night I called him to make an appointment. “My dear, you don’t need to come way up here. You can receive anywhere,” he said. I have forgotten what else he told me. I knew then that he would pray for me and I knew also that space is no barrier to things of the Spirit.
So there I was the next morning, sitting in my chair, my soul on tiptoe to receive this miraculous something my life was lacking. It is an awesome thing to present one’s soul naked and vulnerable to the Lord of the universe. One can never feel worthy but must come at last, humble and penitent for all one’s shortcomings, with an overwhelming desire to have one’s life become something of more significance.
After a time of quiet I recalled Emily’s saying that praying in the Spirit is mainly for one’s private devotions so I began to sing Praise God from whom all blessings . . .
And then — it happened. What someone aptly has called a “rush of love” seemed to descend and engulf me. My entire body was alive and vibrant. Here was surely the “strangely warmed heart” which sent John Wesley out to change the lives of countless thousands. I was given both a keen awareness of the presence of the Lord Jesus and beautiful words with which to praise him.
At long last I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Someone indeed is there.
It’s 5:45 in the morning and I’m up, looking out the window. The dawn is starting to break on the familiar hill above the farm. The sunlight is filtering through clouds and trees, onto a dew-covered pasture littered with cows and their calves.
The upstairs is a little cold, but I can smell the coffee and conversation coming from downstairs. I walk into the kitchen bleary-eyed to see my grandpa in his chair, drinking coffee while talking to grandma. She’s cooking eggs, bacon, and toast. I get brought into the conversation immediately, sitting on grandpa’s lap, telling him an important story about something only a seven year old (and, apparently, a 65 year old) would care about.
Days like that were made for my grandpa, Lawrence D. Shinn, who left this world at 90 years young just a week and a half ago.
On any given day, there could be any number of things on the agenda with a few constants. Maybe moving the cows to a new field, or feeding them hay. Probably cutting wood for the winter, especially in the waning days of summer or early fall. Or working on any number of barns, outbuildings, or house projects. He loved working with his hands, on his 160 acre farm north of Portland for more than seven decades.
There were the constants of food at the farm: lunch at noon sharp, strawberry jam, fresh and canned homegrown vegetables, ice cream sandwiches in the freezer, finding hard candy in random shirt or jacket pockets, and slicing apples or eating oranges in the recliner in the living room.
There was a rotating cast of characters who came and went throughout the day. An uncle or aunt. Cousins — so many cousins. A neighbor dropping by. A friend, maybe from out of town. They were always welcome. Some of them were up for a farm adventure or just visiting, but it always came back to grandpa.
He was a man with a great sense of humor and a great laugh. He made quick friends with the people who met him. He was strong but had a soft heart for his wife of 56 years, his kids, and the rest of us. He was devoted to his family. He taught us that actions spoke louder than words and that the way we treated each other was important. He was honest, humble, and he gave back what he received from this life several times over.
He was stubborn and ornery at times, a trait many of us inherited. He made sure his family made it to church, even when the roads were covered in snow and the only vehicle that could hold the whole brood was a 1963, rear-wheel drive Cadillac that better resembled a sled than a vehicle intended for driving.
He was smart and could figure out any mechanical issue with ease. He never saw problems as unsolvable and came up with ingenious ways to accomplish the challenges that farm life presented. A little cabin built decades ago was expanded again and again, becoming one of the best built Frankenhouses ever. Its halls and basement put up with decades of kids running, yelling, and spilling. Somehow it stayed in pretty good shape.
He loved the outdoors and had an appreciation for the beautiful country he lived in. He also loved traveling, especially via the road. Many of our fondest memories involve traveling the west with him. Long trips were made easier with family and easy conversation, though he truly loved getting away with grandma.
He lived a full life, shared with the people he loved, doing work that he was good at and enjoyed. And in the end, he left with little else to accomplish. A life complete. We should all be so fortunate.
The farm is a little quieter these days but the legacy of my grandfather lives on — through seven kids, 14 grandchildren, 20 great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren, and dozens of people who married in, invited themselves over, and shared a hug with him.
When I look around the family, I see parts of my grandfather everywhere. We all have our own separate pieces of his personality and wisdom. But I worry about the family he leaves behind. I wonder what happens to us when we forget that despite our differences, we’re all connected to a man who wanted more than anything for us to love each other like he loved each of us. I hope his influence doesn’t wane in us.
It’s a sad day for me because I’ll miss him being a part of my daughter’s life like he was part of mine and that the lessons and example I’ll be able to pass on can’t compare. He wasn’t a perfect man, but he was perfect for us and our family.
Grandpa Shinn was one of a kind, and I’ll miss his stories, laughter, wisdom, and deep love he shared with our family and with me.
We all have a finite time here on this world and he made the most of each day in simple ways. It always started with that coffee and laugh in the morning, though. That’s what I’ll remember most.
I’ve seen a few people talk about the fact that they have (or don’t have) access to LinkedIn’s latest “thing that isn’t job searching”: LinkedIn Influencer. Now, like other business celebrities, you too can exert your influence on the multitudes of LinkedIn users. You create content on LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s algorithms hopefully share it far and wide, and then you become influential.
I won’t pick on LinkedIn too much — though I will note that if everyone is an influencer, no one really is — but it’s the same thing I’ve seen with other content syndication and non-paid writing gigs. You’ll get great exposure! Write for us often!
I’m not here to judge you if you want to write content for free. I know I have. But, I also mostly get paid to write. That’s important to me, I like doing it and I don’t worry too much about people who don’t get paid.
I am going to judge you if you have a poor strategy when creating content for somebody else, on their platform, for free, and all you hope to get from it is name recognition. The face of content is changing on the web but don’t be stupid about it. Here are five tips to make the most out of your digital content presence:
Don’t just write on LinkedIn (or Forbes, or Huffington Post, or someone else’s site). Unless you are getting cash money to write for these folks, you should probably be judicious in how you use these sites. Understand the terms, particularly their ability to use the piece you create on associated sites and originality requirements.
Create a social hub. You can use WordPress.com, Blogspot, Tumblr, or any number of blogging sites (or you can host it on your own). Copy (or excerpt, if what you wrote has to be original) pieces that you write for these other websites to your social hub and share the pieces from there to your social networks. Any original pieces should obviously come from here.
Buy a domain name and direct it to your hub. Blogspot and Tumblr are free to use your own domain name with, but the domain name will cost $10. Don’t be cheap and just go for whatever.blogspot.com. That’s a fool’s game. While you don’t necessarily control those sites where you can host your social hub, you do control your domain name which means moving content becomes possible as well as always being able to capture your own traffic.
Include links back to your social hub in everything you write. Even if it is a paid assignment, I’d rather have a link back to my site than an abbreviated bio and it never hurts to ask. If you’re being asked to contribute to a site for free (or you’re doing the contributing to a site), this is the bare minimum. Allow people direct access to where they can find more stuff from you.
Spread your words to different audiences. If you write about the same topics, for the same publications, you’re going to hit a saturation point with the audience. Unless you’re writing to be a writer, you’re usually writing to sell something else (yourself, your business, your idea). Hit diverse publications, especially initially, and if you find one publication does better than most for you, focus there.
One last note: these rules will probably change tomorrow. That’s a problem because I actually wrote this post yesterday. What won’t change is this: ownership and control should always be in the back of your mind if you’re going to play this game. How do you continue to cut out the middle man and take your message directly to people who want to hear it while expanding that audience?
Last fall, I bought myself a Samsung Chromebook for my birthday. Coincidentally, I also got one of the first units because I ordered it directly from Google when they initially released it and they shipped them from California so I got mine quickly. When I received it, I pulled it out and wanted to type something out on it (because I use my computers primarily for writing, that part is pretty important to me). I busted out a long review and posted it on Amazon as one of the first reviews and that was it.
Or so I thought.
The Chromebook has been one of the top selling laptops on Amazon for nearly six months (#1 as of this writing). My review has been reviewed as helpful by 4,842 of 5,048 raters (just shy of a 96%) and has been read by many more thousands of people. It has over 300 comments on it. I get web traffic and e-mails about the Chromebook several times a week.
I submit to you, quite humbly, that it is probably my most viewed writing on the web. It doesn’t exist on my site and I don’t get anything from it (other than the random visitor or e-mail).
I will tell you, I thought of writing the review here but it didn’t make sense. For one, it doesn’t really fit in with what I typically write about. So I was fine posting it to Amazon because I knew it would get read heavily by those in the midst of a buying decision. I was writing impartially, so I was trying to cover the device — warts and all — even though I was generally a fan of it from first boot.
As the comments started rolling in, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that my own site wasn’t receiving much of any benefit. Even for those who found me, most wouldn’t be interested in being long term subscribers. The more I thought about it though, the more I was pleased. I don’t make a lot of money on this site but I really don’t believe most blogs generate significant income from advertisements (or any other creative, content-oriented approaches). Instead, I think most people who blog earn opportunities and an audience that would be tough to land otherwise. They may get an opportunity to write but more frequently, they get other opportunities to provide value.
I think if I was so focused on just building stuff on my own blog, I wouldn’t be able to do fun things like write a huge review on Amazon.com and wonder if there is anything to it. I would’ve wrote it here and it would’ve received three comments. I wouldn’t have wrote my article about purple squirrels for the Harvard Business Review blog.
With so many off blog alternatives for writing, it is easy to see why a lot of people abandon the blog concept altogether. One thing I am convinced of is that if you are serious about content creation, you need a hub. This is my hub. I may give out Twitter or LinkedIn sites on my bio as well but all roads eventually point back here. I may have spokes of content out there but if someone wants to get back to me, there is only one place that happens.
It’s not a new or unique idea but it is one that I have come to fully embrace. While I may not write as often as I’d like to here, I know I will always have something to write about and that keeping a strong hub is important. And while I’d like to see this site continue to grow, I know the bigger opportunities will come from outside of me writing a blog post here. That’s why posting externally and trying new things is still important.
I generally believe in writing every day, either for myself or for work. But for long stretches over the holidays, I didn’t write a thing. Besides a friend’s wedding in June, I hadn’t taken off any significant time last year and I was feeling burned out.
When I got back into it this week though, I started thinking about the things I wanted to improve and writing for all of you was on the top of my list. I want to write more frequently and continue to improve overall. Part of that is getting better at thinking about what writing for the web means and what distinguishes it from other forms of media.
With that in mind, I wanted to list off a few of the ways I plan on writing better for the web in 2013.
1. Long form is still okay for the web
I love reading stuff from The Atlantic or Grantland.com that is longer form. When you read about writing for the web, so much of it focuses on tight, optimized and short content. I’ve sat in on sessions with fellow bloggers who said to not write more than 800 words on anything for the web.
The social impacts of blogging–whether it be through an engaged readership or contact with someone who really liked a piece–is enhanced by well-crafted, long form blogging. Some of my best read pieces are the ones with over 1,000 words.
I don’t want to always go long on my posts but I don’t think it should be actively avoided. In fact, I think you should simplify and enhance the reading experience so it isn’t painful to read. Readable type, headings, and a clean layout help dramatically.
2. Best, not first (or, and first)
One of the ideas that resonated with me over the holidays was how wrong much of the media was about the Newtown shooting in the rush to get news out quickly about a developing event. With some exceptions, I am not breaking news (and certainly with this blog, I am never breaking news). My biases are out there.
For the most part though, I want to give thoughtful commentary on something. And when I am first, I want to make sure I’m not only correct but that I am also as comprehensive as possible with an initial story.
3. Headlines matter
I knew this in 2012 of course but that doesn’t mean I always did a great job of coming up with the right headline. Truth be told, a lot of content is shared on social media before it is read based on the headline and reputation of the publication or author. Combine that with automated sharing and you get the point: headlines matter.
Of course, content matters too. People who use shallow content with great headlines to drive traffic earn my scorn, even if it is a winning strategy (at least, right now it is). At the very least though, I need to even the playing field with better headlines.
4. Short is okay, too
Sometimes I don’t have a lot to say or I don’t have a lot of time to say what I want. If you saw my Google Drive folder, you’d see draft after draft. Some of those posts can’t even be used anymore because they were based on (then) current events. That’s a lot of silly effort for something that could have been avoided. An incomplete thought sometimes works okay.
Discretion is something I enjoy about writing. If something isn’t up to par, I like being able to cut it up or eliminate it completely if it doesn’t fit. But short isn’t bad if it fits everything else that I like about publishing for the web.
5. Focus on presentation
With web publishing platforms, there are millions of iterations for how you can present content. As I mentioned with long form writing, presentation is a key to make sure you don’t lose readers on longer pieces. I’m pleased with how my site displays on devices of all size (from my 25 inch monitor to my 4.5 inch smartphone) and how clean the font and styling is but I am going to continue to improve the reading experience here on the site.
Although I don’t use multimedia very frequently, there are some things I’d like to improve when it comes to displaying pictures and the like.
I’d like to diversify what I am writing about. Part of burnout is not just writing a lot but writing (and editing) about the same sorts of things over and over again. I’d like to continue to expand what I am writing about but I need to figure out what topic(s) I should tackle.
If you’re writing in 2013 for the web, what are your resolutions?